Overhead Support

November 2, 2011
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Figure 3. A cross-section of a modular steel grid system. Courtesy of Hilti Inc. Figure 1. A universal modular grid support system in a surgical suite. Courtesy of Hilti Inc. Figure 2. Traiditonal red-iron equipment supports. Courtesy of Hilti Inc. Figure 4a. An overhead modular grid support system for equipment manufacturer "A." Courtesy of Hilti Inc. Figure 4b. An overhead modular grid support system for equipment manufacturer "B." Courtesy of Hilti Inc.
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Walk into any modern surgical room and you will see overhead booms for exam lights, vitals monitors, medical gas stations, and a variety of other medical equipment. Hospitals are changing the way surgical suites are being utilized to increase productivity and patient flow. Sophisticated medical equipment is being installed to reduce patient recovery times and minimize infection risks. These advancements in medical technology are transforming hospitals into state-of-the-art, high-tech facilities.

What can’t be seen, hiding above the ceiling, is the chaos of overlapping steel supports, conduits, ducts, piping, and other auxiliaries needed to sustain medical equipment. How can this congestion be managed and maintained? More importantly, how can these support systems be adapted to improve the productivity and flexibility of the surgical suite? 

As healthcare needs continue to rise, hospitals are striving to improve patient care, attract highly talented doctors, and utilize the latest innovation in medical equipment. The typical hospital facility is in a constant state of change. Facility owners are tasked to manage this change while maintaining productivity and profitability of the hospital.

The surgical suite is the most dynamic room within the hospital; therefore, the ability to maintain the productivity of a surgical suite is critical to a hospital’s revenue potential. Support systems within these surgical suites that can easily adapt to change can improve productivity, shorten facility downtime, reduce the impact on patients and staff, and improve operating margins over the life of the facility.

With recent developments in modular steel girder design for overhead equipment supports, healthcare facility owners now have the option of one solution that provides flexibility of the supports to adapt as the hospital evolves, as well as offers better organization of the above-ceiling congestion. Modular steel girders are used to create a universal grid design for operating rooms, which allows a standard operating room to transition for orthopedic, cardiovascular, trauma, endovascular, or hybrid use with less impact to the existing structure.

“With the installation of the overhead grid system, we have the infrastructure in place to respond to the ever-changing technologies in our operating rooms,” says Dave Larson, director of facility management at St. Cloud Hospital in St. Cloud, Minnesota. “This will limit downtime for construction, which has a direct link to infection control risk and, ultimately, revenue. We had always looked for ways to limit the construction extents in the operating suite; this product has made that possible. I would urge all facility managers to take a serious look at the benefit this system could offer. With the costs of medical technology, this would only represent a fraction of the project budget when you consider it is a lifetime addition to the space.”

A universal overhead support system is comprised of cold-formed, modular tube steel girders arranged in a grid configuration. The girders are assembled using bolted connections to create a structural plane that can encompass the entire room. The grid is positioned just above the finished ceiling line with vertical supports bolted or clamped to the superstructure to provide space for the distribution of mechanical and electrical piping.

The traditional method for hanging and mounting overhead equipment in healthcare facilities uses miscellaneous steel shapes and angle iron, which must be welded together (see Figure 2). The welding process is labor intensive and presents hazards due to harmful fumes and vapors generated by the process. Precautions, such as containment areas and temporary shutoffs, are necessary whenever welding and can affect the productivity of the hospital as a whole.

Single-point red-iron supports are fabricated to exact lengths and installed in isolated locations. The mobility restrictions of the welded red-iron supports can require more adjustment and coordination of the surrounding mechanical and electrical lines to avoid conflicts. This method has been around for many years, but offers little benefit to the healthcare facility owner with respect to adaptability in-service and flexibility over the lifecycle of the facility.

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